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Kovacevic: These Steelers stink ... obviously

Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Bears receiver Earl Bennett makes it into the end zone for a fourth quarter score as the Steelers' Shamarko Thomas provides coverage Sunday, September 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Bears receiver Earl Bennett makes it into the end zone for a fourth quarter score as the Steelers' Shamarko Thomas provides coverage Sunday, September 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Steelers coach Mike Tomlin urges on his team against the Bears Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at Heinz Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Steelers coach Mike Tomlin urges on his team against the Bears Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Bears quarterback Jay Cutler runs for a fourth quarter first down against the Steelers Sunday, September 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Bears quarterback Jay Cutler runs for a fourth quarter first down against the Steelers Sunday, September 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Bears' Matt Forte takes to the air in scoring a first quarter touchdown aginst the Steelers Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at Heinz Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Bears' Matt Forte takes to the air in scoring a first quarter touchdown aginst the Steelers Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at Heinz Field.

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 12:30 a.m.
 

The Steelers stink.

Look, we can fuss over who's at fault. We can rewind specific plays, retrace Xs and Os, even revisit the drafts of the past half-decade. All that's in play.

Thing is, when that list keeps spreading from Sunday to Sunday, when there are more culprits than one can count, when there's no end in sight … well, what's left to say?

The team stinks.

I could end this right here, huh?

What additional analysis could anyone possibly covet from this 40-23 fiasco of a failure against the Bears, one which began with a Ben Roethlisberger fumble, was buried by a second Ben Roethlisberger fumble, was ended by Ben Roethlisberger's second interception to make for matching bookends, and again had a whole lot of Heinz Field yellow showing all throughout?

Who'd want to watch this?

Who'd want to dissect it?

For crying out loud, who'd want this team to fly halfway around the world later this week to face the Vikings, another 0-3 loser, in London?

The British All-Bad Bowl, anyone?

“We've got to get better,” Mike Tomlin was saying just after the first of an impressive five “obviously” references in six answers. “We know it. We understand it. It doesn't make it any less painful, but that's just the reality of where we are.”

Obviously.

No less obviously, I was wrong about this team, and I'll put it right here in black and white. I thought, given a weak schedule and some quality experienced winners and a promising rookie class, that 10-6 was possible.

Laughable now.

This no longer is about shoring up weaknesses, as was the aim all through Latrobe and the preseason. Nor is this about building from the strengths, as had been the aim heading into Cincinnati and this game.

It's about finding a strength.

One.

Other than Antonio Brown, of course. Give 84 his due: He complained about not getting the ball, he got into Todd Haley's face, and he showboated with the team down 17 points. But give me a fool who produces over a model citizen who doesn't. Give me those nine catches for 196 yards and that gorgeous one-handed grab among his two touchdowns.

But good luck finding anything or anyone beyond that.

Certainly not the franchise quarterback. Fact is, even amid 406 passing yards and a couple of sharp touchdowns, the Steelers' best player was, on this night, their worst.

“Obviously, you're not going to win football games turning the ball over in the manner in which he did,” Tomlin said, clearly careful to avoid mentioning Roethlisberger by name. “That's the reality. What we did wasn't enough. I don't know if you're ever going to get enough to overcome those kind of turnovers.”

The Roethlisberger issue isn't new. He's been overthrowing receivers since the opener, he's taken too many sacks — two more Sunday — and he generally hasn't been himself.

That, more than anything, has to change.

“I can't turn the ball over, plain and simple,” Roethlisberger said. “I can't, but I did.”

Obviously.

But there's so much more.

The offensive line is in such sad shape that its top performer has been center Fernando Velasco, pretty much signed off his couch a couple weeks ago. Ramon Foster and David DeCastro are getting spun at guard, and Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert have been so wretched at tackle that — in an NFL rarity — they're now working through a three-man rotation with Kelvin Beachum.

That's how it'll stay, too, apparently.

“They hadn't played well enough to justify otherwise,” Tomlin said of Adams and Gilbert. “We're going to turn some stones over, and we're not going to be bashful about that.”

Those are two highly touted second-round draft picks, I might add, in case you care to take this discussion down the Kevin Colbert draft route.

Still, what had to hurt most of all, what just might have delivered the kill shot to any hopes of some imminent awakening, was the sickeningly soft showing of the reigning No. 1-in-name-only defense.

While the Bears were prying balls loose left and right, the Steelers' takeaway total stayed stuck on nil. The sack total grew by only two, meaning it tripled. Ryan Clark whiffed early on a 55-yard run by Matt Forte, and Willie Gay topped that by hilariously trying to poke the ball from behind rather than, you know, tackling. Michael Bush bulldozed through the box for a fourth-and-1 touchdown. Ike Taylor was beaten on a 41-yard pass — a beauty by Jay Cutler, to be fair — to dispel a very real chance the Steelers had to actually steal this.

The defense had been OK through two games, but this was abysmal.

“We've got to do more,” Clark said. “It's definitely on the defense.”

Yep. Obviously.

If Roethlisberger and the defense can't be trusted, who knows where this goes next?

The worst season the Steelers have had since Chuck Noll's debut is 5-11, and we'd now be looking at a 5-8 revival for even that to occur.

It's scary stuff, both the potential for a snowball effect and the ramifications that might await at the bottom of the hill.

LaMarr Woodley countered with a looking-glass special of his own: “We have a chance to go 13-3. That is realistic. We have 13 more games.”

He'd better watch that kind of crazy talk passing through customs.

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